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Avian flu spread on the rise in Saskatchewan: ‘It’s very contagious for potentially all birds’

Click to play video: 'Avian flu cases on the rise in Saskatchewan, Canada' Avian flu cases on the rise in Saskatchewan, Canada
WATCH: With cases of avian flu on the rise in Canada and in Saskatchewan, the Forestry Farm Park and Zoo is taking precautions with its birds and experts offer their advice on staying clear of interaction with wild birds in Saskatoon – May 8, 2022

The avian flu has been wiping out poultry across portions of Canada and Saskatchewan is no different.

It has had a significant impact on the poultry industry with roughly 1.7 million birds being affected across the country.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit says the flu is impacting the industry but it is managing as best it can.

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Bird flu outbreak on Canadian farms – May 6, 2022

“As everyone knows the poultry industry is a supply management system. The system works across borders in Canada, they are trying to maintain that supply chain across the country.”

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According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, more than 100,000 birds have been infected by the flu in Saskatchewan as of May 5.

This increased risk has led to the Saskatoon zoo moving all its captive birds from their enclosures to more secure locations, where contact with wild birds can’t happen.

“We’ve put our birds off of the display and put them in a more secure area where they can’t come into contact with any other birds,” Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo manager Jeff Mitchell told Global News.

“The flu is very contagious. There is a good chance any bird that catches the flu would be in trouble.”

Click to play video: 'Getting to know the dingoes at the Saskatoon zoo' Getting to know the dingoes at the Saskatoon zoo
Getting to know the dingoes at the Saskatoon zoo – Sep 19, 2019

A spokesperson for Meewasin suggests walkers avoid hand-feeding any of the birds along the trails, particularly geese, as they are susceptible to the flu as well. There are usually flocks of them in close contact with families and kids who walk or bike the trails in the summer.

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“With the avian flu, we want to minimize the contact, so we don’t want to be feeding the birds, especially hand-feeding the birds,” said Meewasin resource management technician Jamie Harder.

The flu is transmitted from an infected bird to a healthy bird through infected saliva, mucous through feeding grounds or feces.

The risk of infection for humans and other animal species is low, but it can and has happened.

“Making sure that you are not touching those animals or grabbing those animals. And if you are, you wear the proper protective gear and keep them away from your kids and your pets,” said Mitchell.

The province adds there is no risk to food safety.

Read more: City of Saskatoon warns residents after positive cases of avian flu in birds

Avian flu is a viral infection with the ability to spread easily and quickly among birds.

Some wild bird species, like ducks, can carry the virus and infect other birds without getting sick themselves.

Other bird species are more likely to get severely ill and die when infected with some types of avian flu.

“It is important to note that the public health risk is extremely low and there is no risk to food safety,” the city release stated.

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The city is asking for residents’ help by encouraging them not to feed birds by hand, to temporarily take down bird feeders as they encourage birds to congregate, and not to touch sick or dead birds.

If someone does come across a sick bird or dead bird, they should report it to the Ministry of Environment Inquiry Centre at 1-800-567-4224.

— with files from Kelly Skjerven

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